Energy Security

NSPE Position Statement No. 1756
Approved: July 2010

It is the position of NSPE that the American economy depends on the mobility that our transportation system provides. This system is predominately fueled by petroleum (gasoline and diesel fuel), most of which is imported. When these imports are disrupted, there can be severe impacts on our nation's security and economy. Such problems can be minimized by using American resources and technology.

NSPE believes that in the near term domestic petroleum could be utilized by reducing regulatory barriers to exploration, production, and refining. Longer term cost increases can be reduced by using North American oil sands and oil shale. Modern technology can reduce costs and environmental impacts

America also has considerable natural gas resources. Recent advances in gas shale technology have increased the reserves available for production. We can also transport gas with more pipelines and LNG (liquefied natural gas) facilities. CNG (compressed natural gas) is now being used by fleet operators to power some buses and heavy trucks. With research and considerable cost reduction, natural gas could be used in vehicles by making methanol, gasoline, or synthetic diesel fuel. With major cost reductions, natural gas could also be used in fuel cell vehicles, such as by producing hydrogen

Liquid fuels for vehicles can also be produced from coal, America's most abundant energy resource. More research and development are needed to reduce the cost of coal liquids.

<Biologically based fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel also have a role in promoting energy security. Cellulosic ethanol offers considerable promise. Much research and development needs to be done in reducing costs.

Technology is also progressing on improved vehicles. New vehicles are being developed that get more miles per gallon, either by efficiency improvement or by using electricity. Vehicle efficiency is being improved by using stronger lighter materials. Vehicle systems are being developed utilizing waste heat for improving performance and increasing efficiency.

Hybrid electric vehicles are being improved to increase miles per gallon. Much work is oriented toward reducing the cost of batteries and increasing their useful life. Increased battery energy density is also being pursued to extend vehicle range. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are also being developed, as well as electric vehicles. As the number of electric vehicles increases, the infrastructure and electric grid will have to be adapted to accommodate them.

Engineers are working on technologies to improve fuels and vehicles to achieve energy security. With increased performance and lower costs, these technologies can succeed in displacing imported petroleum from the market.

Toward these objectives, NSPE recommends increased funding for research and development for these technologies for the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and the National Science Foundation.